Tripura Election 2023: As Left, Congress Consider Alliance, Their Past Experience Tells A Different Tale

The Left and Congress have expressed their wish to contest the upcoming Tripura state election together. However, their bonhomie in West Bengal in the past has not done much good to any of the two.

Tripura Election 2023: As Left, Congress Consider Alliance, Their Past Experience Tells A Different Tale
Left front leaders have expressed their willingness to form an alliance with the Congress and TIPRA Motha to contest the upcoming Tripura assembly election. (Image Credit: Twitter)

Tripura’s over 28 lakh voters will decide the fate of candidates contesting the upcoming assembly election on February 16. With the Election Commission of India announcing the polling date, the bugle has been sounded for political wrangling in the state and a weakened Left Front and Congress have made up their mind to come together to put up a challenge for the ruling BJP. Putting aside all indications of its frailty in this Northeast state, the grand old party has demanded 20 seats out of the 60 up for grabs. Meanwhile, the Left is keen on roping in the rising star of Tripura politics - TIPRA Motha, led by Pradyut Kishore Debbarma.

Amid this backdrop, a question doing the rounds in the state is - how effective will be this purported alliance of ideologically distinct parties, if at all this formation materialises? To arrive at an answer to that question, one might want to look away from Tripura and to a state, that is to some extent similar in its composition - West Bengal, where a similar experiment has been conducted several times in the past.

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What’s Cooking In Tripura?

The Left and Congress have already initiated talks to come together for the upcoming Tripura Elections and are working on a seat sharing arrangement that has been made difficult with the Congress’ demand for 20 seats, according to sources quoted by Deccan Herald. The Left is also keen on getting Tipraha Indegenous Progressive Regional Alliance (or commonly known as TIPRA Motha) on board for this alliance.

The Pradyut Kishore Debbarman-led TIPRA Motha is strongly placed in the 20 tribal reserved seats in the state and has said that it may contest beyond these seats as well. Multiple reports suggest that all opposition parties - Congress, TMC and Left - are in talks with Debbarma to get his support.

In the previous state election in 2018, the Left front had lost being restricted to 16 seats, even as it bagged 44.35 per cent of the vote share. This was marginally more than what the BJP, which won the election, had got - 43.59 per cent. Congress, on the other hand, had received a meagre 1.79 per cent vote share.

Hence, understandably, Left and TIPRA Motha are not comfortable leaving as many seats as the Congress is now demanding.

First Left-Congress Alliance In 2016 West Bengal Poll

The West Bengal Assembly election of 2016 saw the All India Trinamool Congress coming to power with a majority that had till then been unprecendented. At the time, the Left and Congress had joined hands with the hope that the combined forces of the only two opposition parties in the state (till then) will be enough to wean Mamata-led TMC away from power.

Their dream bubble could not have burst more spectacularly. TMC, single-handedly, trounced the alliance winning 211 seats. The Left-Congress alliance was limited to 77 seats, with results being particularly bad for the Left - once the unassailable power in Bengal - now relegated to the third position. The BJP, which was back then an almost irrelevant political force, won just 3 seats.

Not many days had passed before the Left and Congress snapped ties to go their separate ways. The 2018 Panchayat polls in the state, during which widespread violence was reported, were fought separately by each major party. Political violence has a knack for benefitting the ruling parties in any state and West Bengal was no exception. Several seats saw TMC winning unopposed. The zeal for this alliance experiment had not worn out and that year there were reports suggesting the Left and Congress could come together again for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Even as the Bengal leaders of Left and Congress were mulling over this possibility, objections being raised from the Kerala unit of CPI(M) tanked the talks.

Post the counting of votes for the last Lok Sabha polls, BJP emerged as the principal opposition with 18 seats from the state, Congress was left with crumbs (2 seats), and CPI(M) nothing.

2021 Mahajot: Second Attempt At A Doomed Experiment

If there were any lessons from the past experiments of the Left and Congress coming together, none were learned, to disastrous results one might add. In this high-octane election nobody had a doubt on BJP being the main challenger to the throne of West Bengal, some had even opined that it was on its way to claim it. However, nobody could predict what came to pass with regards to the Mahajot of Left, Congress, and Abbas Siddiqui (a very popular religious leader in Bengal) led Indian Secular Front. For the first time in the history of West Bengal, its assembly had no representation from the left and Congress too drew a blank.

The only one to represent this political formation in the state assembly was Naushad Siddiqui, Abbas’s brother, from ISF.

Shattering all expectations of BJP, TMC not only won the election but also broke their own record winning 217 of the 294 seats.

As dicey as the situation with regards to the Left Congress alliance and seat sharing in Tripura looks, the leaders of all opposition parties might benefit from sparing some thoughts on whether such manuevers bring the desired results. Their own experience might be quite an indicator.

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